Jiggs Donahue, Billy Gilbert, and Bill Friel (left to right) of the Milwaukee Brewers recorded the first triple play in American League history on July 14, 1901, against the Chicago White Stockings.[1]

In baseball, a triple play (denoted as TP in baseball statistics) is the act of making three outs during the same play. There have only been 730 triple plays in Major League Baseball (MLB) since 1876,[1] an average of just over five per season.

They depend on a combination of two factors, which are themselves uncommon:

In baseball scorekeeping, the abbreviation GITP can be used if the batter grounded into a triple play.[3]

Examples

The most likely scenario for a triple play is no outs with runners on first base and second base, which has been the case for the majority of MLB triple plays.[1] In that context, two examples of triple plays are:

Most recent MLB triple play

The most recent triple play in MLB was turned by the Minnesota Twins on July 4, 2022, against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.[10]

Further information: § July 4, 2022

Unassisted triple plays

Bill Wambsganss executed an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series.
Bill Wambsganss executed an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series.

Main article: Unassisted triple play

The rarest type of triple play, and one of the rarest events of any kind in baseball, is for a single fielder to complete all three outs. There have only been 15 unassisted triple plays in MLB history,[11] making this feat rarer than a perfect game.[12]

Typically, an unassisted triple play is achieved when a middle infielder catches a line drive near second base (first out), steps on the base before the runner who started there can tag up (second out), and then tags the runner advancing from first before he can return there (third out). Of the 15 unassisted triple plays in MLB history, 12 have been completed in this manner by a middle infielder.

Most recent MLB unassisted triple play

The most recent MLB unassisted triple play is consistent with the above – it occurred on August 23, 2009, by second baseman Eric Bruntlett of the Philadelphia Phillies, in a game against the New York Mets. In the bottom of the ninth inning with men on first and second, the base runners were both running when Jeff Francoeur hit a line drive very close to second base, which Bruntlett was covering. Bruntlett caught the ball (first out), stepped on second before Luis Castillo could tag up (second out), and then tagged Daniel Murphy who was approaching from first (third out).[13][14] This was only the second game-ending unassisted triple play in MLB history, the first one having occurred in 1927.[15]

Unfielded triple play

Political columnist and baseball enthusiast George Will posed one hypothetical way that a triple play could occur with no fielder touching the ball. With runners on first and second and no outs, the batter hits an infield fly, and is automatically out: one out. The runner from first passes the runner from second and is called out for that infraction: two outs. Just after that, the falling ball hits the runner from second, who is called out for interference: three outs.[16]

Whenever a batter or runner is out without a fielder touching the ball, MLB rule book section 10.09 provides for automatic putouts to be assigned by the official scorer. In this case, the first out would be credited to whoever the official scorer believes would have had the best chance of catching the infield fly. The second and third outs would be credited to the fielder(s) closest to the points the runners were, when their respective outs occurred. Under the scenario described above, the same fielder (the shortstop, for example) could be credited with all three putouts, thus attaining an unassisted triple play without having touched the ball.

While this has never occurred in a Major League game, Texas League Hall of Famer Keith Bodie tells Sporting News that this event occurred in a 1986 spring training game.[17]

Odd and notable triple plays

Joe Pignatano hit into a triple play in the final at bat of his career.
Joe Pignatano hit into a triple play in the final at bat of his career.
Neil Walker was the second baseman in MLB's first 4-5-4 triple play.
Neil Walker was the second baseman in MLB's first 4-5-4 triple play.

Historical totals

The statistics below reflect historical totals through July 4, 2022.

Baserunners

Position of baserunners when the triple play started.

Men on base Occurrences[1] Percentage Most recent
1 2 - 492 67.40  04-Jul-2022
1 2 3 130 17.81  29-Jul-2020
1 - 3 70 9.59  17-Apr-2021
- 2 3 37 5.08  17-Jun-2021
1 2 dagger 1 0.14  see note
Total 730 100  

dagger June 11, 1885, by the New York Giants against the Providence Grays, scored as 4*-4*-3*,[1] with a newspaper account the next day naming the fielders, batter, and runners at first and second;[36] however, it is unknown if there was a runner at third base.

Outs

Baseball positions.svg

Asterisks (*) denote which players recorded outs, per standard baseball positions.
Combinations that have occurred at least 10 times are listed.

Fielders Occurrences Percentage Most recent
5*-4*-3* 104 14.25  20-May-2022
6*-4*-3* 57 7.81  01-Sep-2015
4*-6*-3* 44 6.03  06-Jun-2014
3*-3*-6* 40 5.48  20-Apr-2022
6*-6*-3* 28 3.84  08-Jul-2016
4*-4*-3* 22 3.01  02-May-2017
4*-3*-6* 18 2.48  03-May-1985
1*-6*-3* 16 2.19  19-May-1997
6-4*-3*-2* 13 1.78  28-Apr-1971
5*-5*-3* 11 1.51  29-Jul-2020
5-4*-3*-2* 10 1.37  24-Aug-2014
Total 363 49.73   

Source:[1]

Cultural references

On June 27, 1967, the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates staged a triple play before their game at Shea Stadium for the film The Odd Couple.[37] The scene depicts Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates grounding into a game-ending 5-4-3 triple play.[38][39] Mazeroski, who played 17 major league seasons, was only involved in one actual MLB triple play; he was the runner on second base when the Chicago Cubs turned a 3-3-6 triple play on October 3, 1965.[1][40]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "SABR Triple Plays database". SABR. June 20, 2021. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Dolinar, Sean (August 9, 2014). "MLB — Bases Loaded. No Outs. No Runs". stats.seandolinar.com. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  3. ^ Noble, Marty (June 2, 2015). "Triple-play threat: Robinson holds infamous mark". MLB.com. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  4. ^ "Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles Play by Play and Boxscore". Baseball Reference. July 7, 1973. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  5. ^ "Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers Play by Play and Boxscore". Baseball Reference. July 20, 1973. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  6. ^ "Brooks Robinson Quotes". Baseball Almanac.
  7. ^ Ahrens, Mark (July 29, 2010). "Brooks Robinson — Master of the Triple Play". Books on Baseball. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  8. ^ "SABR Triple Plays: Trivia nuggets". SABR. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  9. ^ "Boston Red Sox 1, Minnesota Twins 0". Retrosheet. July 17, 1990.
  10. ^ Park, Do-Hyoung (July 4, 2022). "Buxton starts improbable 8-5 triple play -- first in AL/NL history". MLB.com. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  11. ^ Ginsburg, Steve (August 23, 2009). "Bruntlett turns game-ending unassisted triple play". Reuters. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  12. ^ DiComo, Anthony (December 30, 2009). "Mets bear the Brunt of unassisted triple play". MLB.com. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  13. ^ "Bruntlett's triple play". YouTube. April 19, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Play by Play and Boxscore". Baseball Reference. August 23, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Zolecki, Todd (August 23, 2009). "Bruntlett joins rare company". MLB.com.
  16. ^ Will, George (March 28, 2009). "Spring Brain Training". Newsweek.
  17. ^ Hagerty, Tim (July 26, 2016). "That time a team turned a triple play without touching the ball". Sporting News.
  18. ^ Effrat, Louis (October 1, 1962). "The Mets' Long Season Ends With Their 120th Defeat, 5 to 1". New York Times. p. 43. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  19. ^ "Chicago Cubs 5, New York Mets 1". Retrosheet. September 30, 1962.
  20. ^ "Triple Play Tidbits". baseballroundtable.com. Baseball Round Table. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  21. ^ "New York Yankees 6, Minnesota Twins 4". Retrosheet. May 29, 1982.
  22. ^ Nash, Bruce; Zullo, Allan (May 1991). The Baseball Hall of Shame 4. Pocket Books. pp. s 35–36. ISBN 0-671-74609-X.
  23. ^ "NYY@MIN: Twins turn triple play". YouTube. November 5, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  24. ^ "Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Box Score, April 14, 2002". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  25. ^ Casella, Paul (April 12, 2013). "Like no other: Yanks' triple play first of its kind". MLB.com.
  26. ^ Nash, Bruce; Zullo, Allan (2012). The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 46–47. ISBN 9780762784004.
  27. ^ a b "Triple Plays in Major League Baseball". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  28. ^ "Pirates turn second triple play in two seasons". ESPN. May 10, 2015.
  29. ^ "Pirates turn an spectacular 4-5-4 triple play". YouTube. May 9, 2015. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  30. ^ "White Sox turn first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in major league history". ESPN. April 23, 2016.
  31. ^ "Rangers at White Sox - Triple Play". YouTube. April 22, 2016. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  32. ^ Collier, Jamal (July 30, 2016). "Nats slay Giant threat with historic triple play". MLB.com.
  33. ^ Fraley, Gerry (August 16, 2018). "Score that a 5-4 triple play by the Rangers". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  34. ^ a b "A 1-3-6-2-5-6 triple play? Yes, it was a first". MLB.com. June 17, 2021. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  35. ^ "Twins OF Byron Buxton's highlight catch starts first 8-5 triple play in recorded MLB history". yahoo.com. July 4, 2022. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  36. ^ "New Yorks, 4; Providences, 3". Fall River Globe. Fall River, Massachusetts. June 12, 1885. p. 4. Retrieved July 29, 2020. Gerhardt and Connor made a beautiful triple play in the sixth, retiring Start and Daily at second and first on a liner from Irwin's bat.
  37. ^ 50 Years Ago Today: Classic Shea Stadium Scene In Odd Couple, 27 June 2017, MetsMerizedOnline.com
  38. ^ "Triple Play - The Odd Couple". Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved July 23, 2019 – via YouTube.
  39. ^ "Bizarre Act Goes Into Game, This Time It Costs Pirates". Spokane Chronicle. Spokane, Washington. AP. June 28, 1967. p. 22. Retrieved July 30, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
  40. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates 6, Chicago Cubs 3". Retrosheet. October 3, 1965. Retrieved July 30, 2020.